THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                          Staunton's letter to Morphy, October 9, 1858

 

    

London, October 9, 1858             

     Sir, -- In reply to your letter, I have to observe that you must be perfectly conscious that the difficulty in the way of engaging in a chess-match is one over which I have no control. You were distinctly appraised, in answer to the extraordinary proposal of your friends that I should leave my home, family and avocations, to proceed to New Orleans for the purpose of playing chess with you, that a long and arduous contest, even in London, would be an undertaking too formidable for me to embark in without ample opportunity for the recovery of my old strength in play, together with such arrangements as would prevent the sacrifice of my professional engagements. Upon your unexpected arrival here, the same thing was repeated to you, and my acceptance of your challenge was entirely conditional on my being able to gain time for practice.
     The experience, however, of some weeks, during which I have labored unceasingly, to the serious injury of my health, shows that not only is it impracticable for me to save time for that purpose, but that by no means short of giving up a great work on which I am engaged, subjecting the publishers to the loss of thousands, and myself to an action for breach of contract, could I obtain time even for the match itself. Such a sacrifice is, of course, out of all question.
     A match at chess or cricket may be a good thing in its way, but none but a madman would for either forfeit his engagements and imperil his professional reputation. Under these circumstances, I waited only the termination of your last struggle with Mr. Harrwitz, to explain that, fettered as I am at this moment, it is impossible for me to undertake any enterprise which would have the effect of withdrawing me from duties I am pledged to fulfil. [sic]
     The result is not, perhaps, what either you or I desired, as it will occasion disappointment to many; but it is unavoidable, and the less to be regretted, since a contest, wherein one of the combatants must fight under disadvantages so manifest as those I should have to contend against, after many years retirement from practical chess, with my attention absorbed and my brain overtaxed by more important pursuits, could never be accounted a fair trial of skill.
                                                                             I have the honor to be,
                                                                               Yours, &c. H. Staunton

Paul Morphy, Esq.
     P.S. I may add that, although denied the satisfaction of a set encounter with you at this period, I shall have much pleasure, if you will again become my guest, in playing you a few games sans fašon.

 
 

  return